Rules of Alchemy is a Seriously Challenging ARPG

Published: Friday, August 28, 2020 - 11:00 | By: Robert N. Adams
Brutal, Unforgiving Fun

One Play NYC 2020 game that I couldn't resist checking out was Rules of Alchemy. This in-development title that promised to provide an action RPG with a focus on combining spells in interesting ways. As a longtime fan of Diablo 2, I was eager to jump in.

I've put thousands of hours into Diablo 2 and hundreds more in games like Path of ExileTorchlightChildren of Morta, and who knows how many others. Suffice it to say, I enjoy Action RPGs. I've spent just over an hour with the Rules of Alchemy Play NYC 2020 demo and I'm finding it extremely promising.

 
 
Rules of Alchemy Preview - Inventory
The Rules of Alchemy demo features an on-the-fly crafting system. You'll need to make items to stay alive — there's no town or safe haven in the demo.

What's On The Menu?

Rules of Alchemy is a pretty early alpha. It's very rough, but that's okay — I was here to see what the gameplay was like.

I was first confronted with a menu that gave me the basics that are well familiar to ARPG fans. Equip gear or you'll die! Spend skill points to learn skills! Unnecessary for me, but surely welcome to a new, less experienced player.

I quickly donned my default equipment and charged forward into the forest, anxious to confront my first enemy and confident in my skills as an ARPG veteran. I was certain that I would breeze through this game without any problems.

I could not have been more wrong.

Rules of Alchemy Preview - Runegate
The "Runegate" is where you'll spend Runes to unlock new spells and buff your stats.

Dying, and Dying Again

ARPGs, simply put, are all about you running around and killing enemies, typically from a top-down or isometric perspective. Rules of Alchemy was exactly that, but it threw a few wrenches into the works.

Firstly, there is no save for this game. If you quit or die, that's it — you have to start over again. "Hardcore" modes with a single death aren't exactly to my taste, but I stuck it out because I wanted to explore the gameplay.

Secondly, many ARPGs introduce the idea of "immunities." In Diablo 2 for example, some monsters are immune to fire magic, so you'll have to use one of the other elements. Not many games use immunity mechanics right out of the gate, but Rules of Alchemy has it baked into the game as a core mechanic.

How did I discover this? I handily defeated my first enemy with a sword. I then moved on to a different enemy, swung my sword like a Benihana chef, and promptly got ground into a fine paste.

 
Rules of Alchemy Preview - Magic Combo.jpg
Shoot a tornado, shoot a fireball at the tornado, and you'll cook up a deadly lightning storm on the fly.

By Your Powers Combined

A big part of Rules of Alchemy is the idea of using the right tactics to defeat your enemies. One enemy will get quickly turned to ash by fireballs. Another enemy, however, will shrug off those same fireballs like they were annoying mosquitos.

Rules of Alchemy only has four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. It used a somewhat strange set of keybinds: fire was on the F key, earth was on the E key, and so on. I wasn't too comfortable with this setup and would love to see rebindable keys ready to go for a future release.

Those elements don't stand on their own, though — they can also be combined. For example, you can press A to fire off a tornado. As it hurtles towards your enemy, you can then shoot a fireball at it. Once the fireball impacts, it changes the element to lightning and behaves entirely differently to the two spells used to create it.

Rules of Alchemy Preview - Big Boi
"This foe is beyond any of you." — Gandalf the Grey

Rules of Alchemy... Rules

Rules of Alchemy was undeniably janky. I died once or twice because I didn't notice I had been hit; there aren't any sound effects for taking damage. It's a brutal and unforgiving game.

 

That said, I really like where this game is going. The monster immunities ensure that players need to learn different strategies for every enemy and apply them on the fly. You'll have to tactically retreat and dodge to ensure that the right attacks hit the right enemies — all while avoiding incoming damage from monsters who won't be affected by those same attacks. It felt wonderfully intense.

For now, this game is still very much in development. You can keep with the game's development over at the Rules of Alchemy Discord.


Techraptor conducted our Rules of Alchemy preview on PC with a demo downloaded via Play NYC.


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A photograph of Robert N Adams
Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!